A droning raga fit for Jim Morrison, “Suffer” is a spiritual descent that puts the spotlight directly on Corgan’s anomalous vocals and esoteric lyrics. It’s one of Gish’s most unique songs, distinct from the strong rock sound producer Butch Vig focused on, but not disconnected from the record itself as it showed off the depth of the Pumpkins, defiantly proving that the new generation of rockers had more to offer than pummeling guitars and caustic lyrics.
“Suffer” might not have popped out when Gish was first released in 1991, but a few years later, it would become part of another sound’s genesis when trip-hop artist Tricky sampled the modulating guitar line for a song on his seminal 1995 debut, Maxinquaye. Tricky didn’t even try to hide his influence, simply labeling the song “Pumpkin”. –Doug Nunnally
Lull EP (1991)
Having exploded onto the scene via Gish six months earlier, the Pumpkins delivered a resounding P.S. in the form of Lull at the tail end of 1991. While “Rhinoceros” (Gish) and “Blue” (Pisces Iscariot) packed a punch — and “Bye June” more than held its own – it was the barnstorming “Slunk” that traced the rapid and incendiary chrysalis of the band. From its irrepressible energy and Corgan’s wah-drenched guitar solo to its immortal opening refrain (“Ride on, motherfucker”), it’s a sub-three-minute mission statement and a quintessential Smashing Pumpkins masterclass through and through. –Brian Coney
“Hello Kitty Kat”
“Today” Single (1993)
If there’s one thing that The Smashing Pumpkins had no shortage of circa Siamese Dream, it was fuzzed-out, skull-rattling riff storms. Originally released as a B-side to “Today”, and later included on rarities comp Pisces Iscariot, “Hello Kitty Kat” is a textbook case in point.
Demoed in 1992 (a period in which Corgan later said they “were the best rock band that we ever could have been”), it’s a blistering effort that finds Corgan, Iha, Wretzky and — most emphatically of all — the irrepressible Jimmy Chamberlin working overtime. It remains a bit of a mystery that it wasn’t included on Siamese Dream, not least because it features one of Corgan’s all-time most searing guitar solos. Just try and tell me it wouldn’t fit pretty neatly between “Geek U.S.A.” and “Mayonaise” at the start of Side B. –Brian Coney
“Disarm” Single (1994)
You know it, I know it, everyone knows it: James Iha has never gotten anywhere near enough credit as a songwriter. As the sadly AWOL D’arcy Wretzky put it in an interview recently, “He really was a vital factor in the sound and songs of most of the decent Pumpkins material pre-Machina.”
A (wholly justified) permanent fixture on the band’s recent comeback tours, “Blew Away” is a model example of Iha’s gossamer touch. Although this heartfelt, deceptively simple acoustic-led ballad could easily have been slotted on one of the band’s ’90s albums, the 50-year-old has been typically modest on the matter. “That kind of song would have never been on a regular Smashing Pumpkins record,” he told Consequence of Sound back in 2012. “I don’t think [laughs] it would have been on Siamese Dream or Mellon Collie. It’s hard for me to say. I can’t remember; it was a while ago. I really like that song, though.” –Brian Coney
“Lily (My One and Only)”
Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness (1995)
Funny is not a word used to describe the music of Smashing Pumpkins, but this track, packed away near the tail end of the Twilight to Starlight side of Mellon Collie, is exactly that. A depraved sense of humor may be required, but the way this story of a stalker unfolds is downright hilarious, especially as the story walks the line between creepy and sympathetic up until the point the cops come into play.
Now, if Mellon Collie is The White Album of Corgan’s work, then “Lily” is the “Rocky Raccoon”, an off-kilter song with some odd humor choices. But whereas McCartney dresses up the story with musical flash, Corgan stripes it bare with a baroque arrangement, and whereas Rocky is just an ineffectual cuckold, Corgan’s “protagonist” is truly mentally unstable … as perhaps we might be, too, for highlighting this weird track. –Doug Nunnally